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Jessica Peterson and Anita Briggs to offer benefit concert for Curtains Up Pagosa

By Sally Neel and Anita Briggs
Special to The PREVIEW

If you attended last week’s Sunday Night Unplugged service at St. Patrick’s, you got an idea of the marvelous music in store this Sunday evening, May 21, at 5 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.

Flutist Jessica Peterson and her mother, pianist Anita Briggs, will bring their musical talents to an evening filled to the brim with beautiful music of a wide variety of styles and colors. Guest artist Robert Neel will join them to sing several familiar romantic tunes that are sure to please.

The concert will benefit Curtains Up Pagosa (CUP), a local nonprofit arts group that strengthens Pagosa’s youth through the performing arts and adult mentorship. CUP offers young aspiring artists the opportunity to perform on stage in musicals from the Broadway stage. They also provide support to arts programs in local schools and scholarships to college students majoring in the performing arts. Young artists also can apply for financial assistance from CUP to receive private lessons in voice, dance and instrument training.

Peterson grew up in Pagosa Springs and was active in the school music programs. She continued her music training at the University of North Texas and in New York City. She returned to Pagosa Springs, married Pete Peterson, and continues to enjoy the outdoor adventures offered in our beautiful surroundings.

She is a member of NightSong Trio and regularly enjoys making music with fellow musicians Sally Neel and Heidi Tanner. She is frequently featured as a guest artist at the monthly Sunday Night Unplugged meditation services.

Her mother, Anita Briggs, studied with legendary harpist Carlos Salzedo. She has served as principal harpist with the New Haven, Amarillo, Macon, Columbus and San Angelo symphonies, the Boston Ballet and the Hartford Opera. She worked under Nadia Boulanger and Paul Hindemith, and recorded with the Atlanta Choral Guild.

Due to shoulder injuries, she currently is not able to play her harp, but fortunately is still able to capably play piano. Regardless of the instrument she is playing, Briggs brings her superb musicianship and sensitivity to every piece of music she touches.

She and her daughter have that musical connection that flows through their blood. Their program will provide a wonderful range of classical and contemporary selections that are sure to please.

They will perform three movements, “Polonaise, Minuet and Badinerie” from the lively J.S. Bach “Suite No. 2 in B Minor.” A badinerie is a playful exchange of teasing remarks.

“Voyage” is a mesmerizing work by John Corigliano, inspired by the poem “Invitation to the Voyage” from Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal.” It offers the beloved one a world of mystical beauty expressed in the repeated phrase, “There, all is beauty, calm and pleasure.”

In Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Elegie in E Flat Minor,” the composer takes us through a sweep of human emotions, ranging from sorrow to triumph. This was one of his first published pieces, yet it displays the marvelous gifts of his later works. Originally a piano piece, it has been transcribed in many forms, from full orchestra to cello.

“I arranged this version for flute and piano because I wanted to play it with my daughter Jessica,” Briggs said.

“Carmena”, by H. Lane Wilson, was first published in 1898. It was once the most published sheet music in America. Countless 19th and early 20th century musicales and salons featured this song, a vivacious Spanish-influenced work.

The song tells the story of a sweet girl who awaits her love while “dance and song make glad the night.” She worries that he will not find her as fair as the other young women, but the story ends joyously: She hears him calling her name as he comes through the orange grove.

Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” was composed as a concerto for guitar and orchestra. The gorgeous melody, made familiar by the song version “En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor,” has become so well-known that many assume it is a folk song. Blind from early childhood, Rodrigo nonetheless had a full and gratifying life: a beloved wife and family, and a great career as composer and performer.

Also included is “Ah, Moon of my Delight,” from Liza Lehmann’s 1896 song cycle “In a Persian Garden.” It is a song of great passion and tenderness based on the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.”

A trilogy of songs arranged by the legendary Bill Evans and sung by Robert Neel, “My Romance,” “My Foolish Heart” and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” exemplify the superb quality of popular songs of the past.

Robert Neel, a graduate of Pagosa Springs High School and the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, is a CUP scholar and continues to wow audiences with his acting skills and his beautiful voice.

To conclude the program is an audience sing-along. A song every child (and some adults) should know is “Swinging on a Star.” It points out what we don’t want to be and shows us the options in a funny and delightful way. We hope everyone, guided by Robert Neel and his mother, Sally Neel, will join in the singing and go home humming the tune.

There is a suggested donation of $10 per person for this concert, though any donation is appreciated. St. Patrick’s is located at 225 S. Pagosa Blvd.

This story was posted on May 18, 2017.